The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk

the white castleThis is a much beloved story that was published at the year 1985, in Turkish language (original title: Beyaz Kale) and was translated into English to be published five years later. This is a short novel. A novella, actually.

I never knew the narrator’s name. Herein lies the problem from the very beginning. What I know about him is that he is an Italian Scholar, sailing from Venice to Naples when they are attacked by ships from Turkey. Their captain is too scared to whip up to Turkey slaves, and because of his cowardness, everyone in the ship is caught and they become prisoners, including the Italian Scholar.

Trying to save his life, the Italian Scholar tells everyone that he is a doctor, with his small medical knowledge. With his buffing statements, he is treated better than other slaves. He is, then, bought to the Pasha so that he could cure the Pasha, in which he sucessfully did.

The Pasha is totally impressed. The Italian Scholar gets partnered up with Hoja, a man he is introduced that looks suprisingly like the narrator. His life is turning upside down when he meets Hoja. Their lives are tangled in a love-hate relationship. Sometimes they spend hours together working for a project and enjoy their intimate times, but sometimes they engage in a heavily serious argument they can kill each other.

Firstly, both of them display the most beautiful fireworks on the Pasha’s son’s weddng’s eve. Then, Pasha gives the Italian Scholar to Hoja after the wedding. Soon both of them not only become the slave and master relationship, but also grow a very deep bond, more like two brothers. The Italian tells Hoja all he knows and all his dark secrets while Hoja always listens.

Secondly, they both work for the Sultan who orders them to make a weapon. Hoja and the Italian Scholar begin to work immediately, to create it . Then they join the army, to the journey to the ‘White Castle.’ The weapon fails and Hoja, fearing for his life, abandons the Italian Scholar and goes into hiding. The Italian Scholar goes into hiding too. Then, twist after twist are begining to unfold at the ending, to make this story is very interesting. I don’t know if Hoja likes his life at all or does not understand the idea of personal identity. I will not spoil the ending here, but it is related with the questions of our personality, uniqueness, and self-discovery.

I think it is interesting to pounder over the meaning of the title, “The White Castle”. This is the castle which the Sultan cannot succeed to overthrow, even with the new machine designed by the two scholars. I am wondering what the white castle symbolises? There is a hint of steady undertone of philosophy in here, but I don’t quite get it yet.

Before reading this, I know the author’s other book My Name is Red. Althought I never read that book, the author’s name seemed so familiar when my mom recommanded me to read The White Castle. Pamuk is a great story teller, but the storyline of The White Castle is not really grasping my full attention, though I enjoy the story’s setting in 17th century. It is certainly interesting enough to make me want to finish the book. For this, The White Castle, a short read of barely 145 pages, is worth my time

Orhan Pamuk is a Turkish writer, no suprise in here, as The White Castle has its setting in Turkey. In 2006, he won the ‘Nobal Prize in Literature’, the first prize to be won by a Turkish citizen. This is my first savor of Pamuk’s book; well yeah, like everyone said, “There is a first time for everything”.


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